One of the antisemitic flyers, packed in a sandwich bag, weighted down with rice and distributed in the Berkeley Hills. Credit: Chiara Juster

Berkeley is the latest city to be hit by what appears to be a targeted distribution of antisemitic flyers.

Hundreds of Berkeley Hills residents discovered the disturbing flyers in their driveways and front yards Sunday morning, packed in small plastic bags, weighted down with rice.

Similar propaganda has been distributed recently throughout the country, including in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, Virginia, Maryland and Florida. The hit-pieces, also in baggies with rice or small pebbles, have reportedly appeared in neighborhoods considered either relatively wealthy and/or close to universities. 

San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood was targeted last month and Palo Alto last weekend. Communities in Southern California were also hit over the past few days.

These incidents have been linked by advocacy groups to a notorious hate group out of Petaluma, Goyim Defense League (GDL), run by Jon Minadeo, a white supremacist who uses the moniker “Handsome Truth” on social media, including YouTube and Instagram. 

The Berkeley flyers push a bogus conspiracy that a cabal of Jews leading public health agencies and the banking and pharmaceutical industries is “celebrating their role in COVID.” They are titled “Every Aspect of the COVID Agenda is Jewish” and also include an anti-transgender attack. 

The Berkeley Police Department released a joint statement with the City Council on Monday, reading in part:

“Hundreds of neighbors in the North Berkeley hills were shocked to find plastic sandwich bags on their doorsteps filled with hateful anti-Semitic messaging. Delivered randomly along streets, this action is the result of a small, fringe White Supremacist extremist group that targets Jewish communities as well as other minority groups throughout the Bay Area.”

The statement goes on to say: 

“To our Jewish neighbors, be assured that as a community, Berkeley will stand up together to reject anti-Semitic messages and all forms of hate speech. The Berkeley City Council stands united in our zero-tolerance position against all forms of hate speech in our city.”

The police urged people with information or camera footage related to the flyers to call the department at 510-981-5900.

A spokesperson from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said any incident only reaches their office once there has been an arrest and law enforcement present the case. 

On Tuesday, Mayor Jesse Arreguín issued a statement promising the City Council would adopt a resolution during its Tuesday evening meeting condemning the flyers “and reiterating its rejection of all forms of racism, hate, and discrimination.”

“Berkeley is the birthplace of an international movement against hate and racism, called United Against Hate,” Arreguín said in the statement. “These were cowardly acts that are a perversion of our shared values, and they will be met by a community that is truly united against hate.”

Councilmember Susan Wengraf, whose district includes the neighborhoods hit by the flyers, said in a public statement that Seth Brysk, director of the Anti-Defamation League, told her that identical attacks had been reported in eight states this past weekend and urged people who’ve received one of these messages to file an incident report on the organization’s website.

“It is important that these activities be documented whenever they happen,” Wengraf wrote in an email to her constituents. “The occurrence of antisemitic incidents is increasing, and it is important that we remain vigilant.”

People who discovered the messages were sickened and scared.

“An antisemitic screed was delivered to my house,” John Rosenberg of Berkeley wrote on Nextdoor. “Woke up this AM to find a creepy antisemitic message (Covid is a Jewish plot etc) in a baggie weighted with rice (to make it easy to throw out a car window?) on my driveway. … Disturbing in so many ways.”

“As a person of Jewish descent who did not grown up here I’ve lived in places where one might be more likely to see antisemitic propeganda,” Chiara Juster wrote in an email to Berkeleyside. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere, [but] this is the opposite of what Berkeley is about.”

Summer Brenner, of Berkeley, sent an email to friends: “Really creepy news!”

Brysk said his organization is tracking small fringe groups that appear to be targeting Jews and members of LGBT and immigrant groups in the Bay Area, according to news reports.

“It’s typical behavior for this group who are fringe extremists who are trying to project their hate-filled messaging and try to give an air that they are larger and more widespread than they actually are,” he told Fox KTVU. 

This story will be updated as Berkeleyside gets more information.

Freelancer Catherine "Kate" Rauch has been contributing to Berkeleyside for several years. Her work as a journalist has encompassed everything from 10 years as a daily news reporter for the East Bay Times,...